It’s been a hot week in the gym, especially if you’re an evening session person. The gym bakes in the sun all day and by 4 or 5 pm it’s quite toasty in there. Be sure to drink more water, take an extra break if you need to and know that you’re not losing all your fitness if your performance suffers a bit on hot days. The good news is that we love to adapt. By exposing yourself to some hot environments your body will make some changes to make you work in the heat more efficiently.
Why is working out in the heat so much different? Simple put, it's difficult for our bodies to regulate temperature. To dissipate heat, our blood vessels vasodilate, or expand, sending more blood to the surface of our skin so it can leave our body. Along with that, we utilize sweating and the sweat evaporates off our skin. Very humid conditions makes this process difficult because of all the water molecules in the air.
A few things happen when we become more adapted to train in the heat. Increased sweat rate and decreased electrolyte concentration in sweat are two key factors. Along with blood plasma volume expansion, lower heart rate during exercise and a decreased cost of metabolic work (i.e., you operate more efficiently).
When top-performers are looking to heat adapt for a specific event, they usually need about 7-10 days to totally adapt and operate more efficiently in hot environments. The big changes come within the first few exposures.
What does this mean for you? Well, it means you first 3-5 workouts on hot and humid days are going to be tough. The good news is, even if you’re someone who historically doesn’t do well in the heat, you will adapt if you give your body the chance. It will get better. It’s about managing the exposure and know that you may need to back off the first few times. It’s good for your body to be able to work at a wide range of temperatures. Instead of always sticking to the AC in your room, car, office and gym, getting a little bit of heat exposure may be a good thing.